Natural Hazards

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 1481–1500 | Cite as

Ocean heat content for tropical cyclone intensity forecasting and its impact on storm surge

  • I.-I. LinEmail author
  • Gustavo J. Goni
  • John A. Knaff
  • Cristina Forbes
  • M. M. Ali
Original Paper


Accurate tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts are vital to storm surge prediction and risk management. However, current cyclone intensity forecast skill is deficient, especially for rapid, unexpected intensification events. These sudden intensification events could be catastrophic if they occur just prior to making landfall in heavily populated and storm surge-vulnerable regions of the world. New satellite altimetry observations have revealed that oceanic subsurface warm features such as eddies and currents could make a critical contribution to the sudden intensification of high-impact cyclones. These warm features are characterized by high ocean heat content or tropical cyclone heat potential (TCHP) and can effectively limit a cyclone’s self-induced negative feedback from ocean cooling to favor intensification. This manuscript presents recent advancements in the understanding of the ocean’s role in generating intense tropical cyclones, that can produce high storm surge events such as Hurricane Katrina (2005) and ‘killer’ Cyclone Nargis (2008), which produced high storm surge events. Regional characteristics and on-going cyclone intensity forecast and storm-surge modeling efforts are also described. Quantitative assessment based on the case of Hurricane Rita (2005) revealed that an encounter with a high TCHP region can lead to large difference in the subsequent surge and inundation. The results show that, after a high TCHP encounter, there is approximately a 30 % increase in surge and inundation along the coast and new areas become submerged deep inland, as compared to a tropical cyclone that does not encounter a high TCHP region along its storm track.


Storm surge Tropical cyclone Intensity forecast Heat potential 



I. Lin thanks the support of the National Science Council, Taiwan through NSC 98-2611-M-002-014-MY3W, NSC 100-2111-M-002-001 and National Taiwan University through project number 10R70803. J. Knaff thanks the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Ocean Partnership Program for providing support. The views, opinions, and findings contained in this manuscript are those of the authors and should not be construed as an official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or US government position, policy, or decision. All the authors thank their respective organizations/departments for the support and encouragement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • I.-I. Lin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gustavo J. Goni
    • 2
  • John A. Knaff
    • 3
  • Cristina Forbes
    • 4
  • M. M. Ali
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric SciencesNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological LaboratoryNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationMiamiUSA
  3. 3.NESDIS/STAR, RAMMBCIRA/Colorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.Storm Surge UnitNOAA/NWS/NCEP/National Hurricane CenterMiamiUSA
  5. 5.Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences Group, DivisionNational Remote Sensing CentreHyderabadIndia

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